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Local veterans affected by VA backlog

5:56 PM, Apr 1, 2013   |    comments
Melvin Parton, a Vietnam veteran, has waited almost two years for a decision from the VA on a benefits claim.
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Hundreds of thousands of veterans nationwide are waiting for benefits guaranteed by the government.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs vows to eliminate the backlog by 2015, by installing electronic systems.

In the mean time, the problem is taking a toll on veterans in Knox County.

Melvin Parton, a Vietnam veteran, has been waiting almost two years to find out the decision on a claim he filed.

During the war Parton was exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical used to kill vegetation.

"I have prostate cancer from Agent Orange, and my older brother has chronic heart disease from Agent Orange," Parton said.

Parton is one of many Vietnam veterans filing benefit claims, adding to a 70% backlog at VA headquarters.

More than 890,000 claims are pending.

"Vietnam veterans are aging out. You know, we're 40, 45 years out of Vietnam, and so as a result some of the things that happen to you over time start to accumulate. So we see quite a few Vietnam veterans coming in," said Robert "Buzz" Buswell, Knox County Veterans Services officer.

Buswell also said more claims are being filed as Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers return home.

"In a way we're part of the problem because we are processing all those claims and sending them in," Buswell said.

However, Buswell encourages veterans to continue filing claims, as needed.

Knox County Veterans Services Office files at least 60 claims a month.

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